To hear Jessyca Jones describe her life in Keizer, Ore., conjures up scenes from the back end of an ’80s movie. Zoom past the preppy jocks, the teenagers with shirt collars popped, driving popular girls in flashy cars. Go straight to Saturday detention with “The Breakfast Club” or any playground of anti-heroes chronicled by filmmaker John Hughes.
It’s funny, because she wasn’t born until 1989.
Still, that’s the world evoked by Jones and her boyfriend, Garrett Lee, when they talk about their “chosen family,” the regulars at their local bar, f/Stop Fitzgerald’s Public House. Their friend Kirk Kindle, the owner, set up a community hangout in his ex-wife’s house. The tagline is: “Salem’s Smallest Pub.”
It’s set up like a home — patio, board games, living room furniture — to maximize human interaction. It has hosted a wedding, sparked an engagement, and it’s where Jones met Lee. She goes once or twice a week. The townhouse she shares with Lee and her 4-year-old son, Harrison, is five minutes from where she grew up, but the f/Stop is her spiritual home. It’s where her tribe of “misfits and weirdos” congregates.
Her crowd ranges in age from their 30s to their 50s. So Jones doesn’t give turning 30 much thought.
She’s also just busy. She works four 10-hour shifts a week as a medical transport driver. She wants to be an EMT and went back to school full time. After the pain-management clinic where she worked for eight years closed, she took advantage of unemployment insurance that offered an education option.
For years, she was making nearly $20 an hour. Now she makes $15 an hour.
“I put us in a little bit of a financial rut,” she says.
When Jones thinks about money — specifically, the lack of it — and the reality of living paycheck to paycheck, that’s when the magnitude of turning 30 sinks in.
“I’m always just constantly worried about money, which is sad because I don’t want to live this way, but it’s hard not to,” she says.
When she was younger, she assumed financial stability would be a given, she says. By her age, her parents had owned a house for years, even before she was born. She rents. By the time she was Harrison’s age, she had been to Disneyland.
“I felt at 30, I would be able to afford all these things for my kid. It’s not like we’re super poor or anything. He’s in school. We pay for day care. We go do fun things as a family,” she says, pausing to do the calculations in her head. “He really wants to go to Disneyland right now, and I’m like, ‘Yeah. That would be awesome, but my job doesn’t allow me to save that much money to do that.’ Eventually I’ll get there, but I guess I was expecting to be where my parents were at 30.”
Anxiety about money keeps her up at night.
Thoughts race: “What’s going to happen? What if I lose my job?” Like her mother, Jones has struggled with depression and anxiety. She was officially diagnosed at 15. For depression, she takes Cymbalta. To sleep, she’s takes Trazodone.
Jones is incredibly candid. She talks openly about her finances, her guilt about her finances, her struggles. It’s something that Lee, who was in the Army, especially appreciates.
They are partners, but after a brief marriage to her high school sweetheart, she says she doesn’t want or need to get married again.
The couple dated for a few months when he returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. It didn’t work out, and she started dating someone else; that’s when Harrison came along.
“I got very good at compartmentalizing and locking down and not dealing with feelings,” Lee, 36, says while on a break from his job at a Wells Fargo call center. “There was a lot of trauma I wasn’t dealing with at all. I’m going to see a VA therapist now. The military has a big counterculture about seeing a psychologist. People think you’re not mentally tough, that you’re weak. She helped me get there.”
They got back together when Harrison was 6 months old.
“I was smitten from the moment I met her,” Lee says. “There was something about her, this energy. She was vibrant, just living life. As somebody who spent a lot of time with people who are sort of dead inside, having somebody in my life who is very much alive, and very much emotional, was a big benefit.”
Although Jones underwent tubal ligation after Harrison was born (she was sick throughout her pregnancy), Lee says the couple might adopt a child someday.
Jones is thoughtful, introspective and hard on herself. Before a scheduled video interview, she texted to say she may be late: “But I can talk to you in the car on video if need be. I had a patient code soooooo that’s where I’m at lol. It’s all fine.”
It was not necessarily fine. “I’m barely human right now,” she says a few hours later. (The patient made it to the hospital.) Her job is intense. This is the second job in which she’s had a front-row seat to the opioid crisis.
And this is where her f/Stop community becomes key to managing her depression. Hers is not the motherhood of Mommy and Me classes and play dates, and that was a deliberate choice, she says. She saw her mother isolate herself raising children and how much happier she was with a social life after Jones and her younger sister grew up.
“I love her so very much, and she was an excellent mom. I just know how depressed she was. And while I am still a depressed anxious mess like everyone else, getting out and being with my friends helps my brain. I look up to my mom, but I didn’t want to do that to myself if I could help it,” Jones says.
Maybe that’s why she’s good at rallying the troops. “She goes out. She gets people out,” says her best friend, Sara Sickels.
Sickels met Jones at the f/Stop. She overheard Jones “telling some weirdo she worked with a joke about starting their own televangelist scam and I laughed awkwardly loud,” she says.
Just before the holidays, Jones was prepping for a Saturday outing. First, she was getting a tattoo of the actor Danny Trejo’s face on her right thigh. The tattoo artist, Bexi, is another friend from the f/Stop.
She chose Trejo because “he makes sure in every movie that he plays a villain who dies, because he wants to show that crime never pays.”
Plus, she adds, “he’s a big animal activist.”
Later, she is going to a nearby bar takeover that she organized for 30 or 40 of her usual f/Stop crew.
Further out on the horizon, which can get lost in the day-to-day, she’s working toward her goals.
“I just want to have Harrison in a good school, whatever that looks like. Own a house, hopefully. Still be doing weird things. Going to Burning Man, that sort of thing,” she says. “I still want to do that. I still want to keep that part of my life.”
Update: Jones has become an outspoken activist against local alt-right groups. She’s now studying to become a nurse, and had to give up working as an EMT in favor of making more money. She now she works as a non-emergency dispatcher. She and Lee broke up, and she has a new boyfriend, Thomas Owing. One thing that hasn’t changed? The f/stop — Jones and Owing hang out with Lee and his new girlfriend there, “like adults.”